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Israeli startup launches chemical-pesticide free tech to grow produce, fight food shortages

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Its technology is based on hydroponic cultivation systems, which is a method of growing plants in water instead of soil

By ILANIT CHERNICK

An Israeli startup helping to combat food shortages this week launched its chemical and pesticide-free technology that can be used to grow fruits and vegetables.

StartUpRoots aims to promote sustainable entrepreneurship through a hands-on multidisciplinary approach to food production within a controlled environment. Using its chemical-pesticide free technology, which uses water tech to produce hyper-fresh food to help local communities in Israel combat food shortages.

For Founder and CEO Robin Katz, StartUpRoots was founded after she realized the there is a lack of available healthy, fresh, and affordable produce in schools specifically in impoverished areas and religious communities.

It was this that inspired her to start StartUpRoots, which over the years, has established a unique grass-roots approach to food production using schools as food labs.

The organization includes “a range of experts across the professions, including entrepreneurs, nutritionists, researchers, educators, agronomists and engineers. 

“Our mission is to empower students to develop 21st-century skills in order to examine and address issues related to the universal need for food,” StartUpRoots said in a statement.

By placing cutting-edge soilless agricultural technology in the hands of students, StartUpRoots introduces authentic education and empowers students to address their own food challenges.  

Its technology is based on hydroponic cultivation systems, which is a method of growing plants in water instead of soil. 

Featured Image: StartUpRoots grows mini-greens like broccoli and kale using hydroponic technology.
Above Picture: Founder and CEO of StartUpRoots Robin Katz (second left) poses with some of the organization’s team.
(Picture credits: StartUpRoots)

“StartUpRoots is also exploring aeroponics, another soilless technology, which enables plants to literally grow in the air, receiving precisely the nutrients they need through a misting process,” the organization pointed out. “These methods can use up to 97% less water than traditional farming and eliminate the need for chemical pesticides.”

“Because 120 plants can be grown in a meter of indoor space,” StartUpRoots explained, “these systems can promote locally grown produce, reducing the carbon footprint associated with current production and transport schematics. 

“Fully automated systems, another challenge for popular robotics classes, can be especially valuable in answer to health concerns, such as coronavirus, e-coli, and more,” it added.

Among the different fruits and vegetables grown by students are types of lettuces, kale, bok choy, basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro, dill, strawberries and tomatoes, as well as medicinal herbs.

StartUpRoots highlighted that the harvest cycle for the produce is “significantly shorter than traditional farming methods.”

Some of the newer and more fashionable foods in demand are microgreens, which are nutritionally dense mini-vegetables such as broccoli, radish, pea, mustard, kale and sunflower, among others. 

“These mini-greens are known to contain 4 to 40 times more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than the fully grown plant, and their flavors are more intense,” it added.

Commenting on the launch Katz explained that she initially saw a cycle of poverty that she wanted to break using education. 

“Almost immediately, it became clear that students have tremendous potential to develop the 21st century skills we want them to have by addressing real world issues and challenges,” she said. “By partnering with industry experts and universities, schools can become important skill incubators and vehicles for healthy change.”

In the upcoming months, StartUp Roots’ is set to launch another project in cooperation with the Ramat HaNegev Agro-Research Center and experts from the Arava Institute, Ben Gurion University, and the Center for Creative Ecology in the Israeli Negev desert .

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